As if I haven’t gone on enough about how amazing this quartet from Mississauga is, I now have an interview to prove it. Below is a transcript of the first third of the interview, with some minor edits.
Michael: Michael here, interviewing the Passengers for Grayowl Point. And so my first question is, if you could each answer this individually, what kind of music did you grow up listening to and how did it influence your sound, I guess you could say?
Ryan: I didn’t really listen to music until grade eight. In grade eight, my teacher mentioned the song “Hotel California” and I knew that song because I heard it one time and all I listened to was the Eagles for two years, and other classic rock. I also liked Van Morrisson because I thought Moondance was one of the greatest songs ever. Well I’m not sure what can be called “growing up”… Because growing up I didn’t really listen to any music until the Eagles.
Daniel: I know I pretty much grew up listening to a lot of Queen and Paul Simon. I don’t know how it really fits into what we do now. I remember grade six was my Radiohead year… I think that’s when OK Computer came out, that’s what we get a lot of comparisons to. I went through a punk phase for a bit… Wow, that’s a good question. The Beatles, obviously, since birth I guess. I guess you can say it influenced us melody-wise, like in the guitar parts, you know?
Jonny: I guess, growing up, I listened to a lot of country music and reggae, so I have a mix of Patsy Cline…Peter Tosh, Bob Marley. And then in my high school years I listened to a lot of Jeff Buckley, there’s a bit of that in the way I sing. I listened to a lot of the Verve and Radiohead, and a lot of disco music too like the Beegees and Donna Summer, so, some of my favourite stuff.
SuYen: Well, mine’s going to sound really strange but… my first musical experience was the Britney Spears “Oops I did it Again” CD, and then some Backstreet Boys (laughs). When high school came I didn’t really listen to a lot of music, and after a while I went to Sum 41, a little bit of Linkin park, and after that I went to a Japanese band called X Japan, that bad influenced me to play drums. But then after high school I met these guys and they introduced me to Radiohead. Now I’m exploring music and I’m still learning, listening to the Beatles and stuff.
Michael: Now I know this question is pretty common, but how did you guys meet? Is there someone who can tell the whole story?
Jonny: I think I can!
Daniel: Well you’re kind of like the essential figure…
Jonny: Ooh! I started a band in high school with a friend of mine named Phil, and we found a drummer through Craigslist who was kind of scary, and we also had a friend named Louis who plays bass with us and a few days before our first show, our Craigslist drummer dropped, and I’m really glad he did because he was kind of creepy. I think he was fourty years old, probably. And he suggested Dan who played drums and learned all the drums that week. We made three songs the night before probably, that was the first incarnation probably. After, we all kind of went our own ways and then I might Ryan and [SuYen] at my church, Mississauga City Baptist Church. We also played with Timmy Blank, who’s a very cool, stand-up guy. Later Timmy decided to part ways with the band and the first person who came to mind was Dan because he was a good friend of mine, and I wouldn’t really feel comfortable playing with someone else, so I asked Dan and he said yes. And we lived happily ever after, the end.
Michael: That’s awesome. So I guess another really common question, why the Passengers?
Jonny: We were under the band name of Her Majesty and we said “this is a really bad name.” And then we thought of calling the band Copper Gold which is one of the worst band names of all time that doesn’t exist yet. If you’re going to make a band name don’t call it Copper Gold. And I think I was just going through words that I liked.
Daniel: And we made a really big list, like a text file that we would send back and forth to each other. We had like Paper Cups,… I think I made about seven Beatles references like the 909’s…
Jonny: And the Lovely Rita’s or something? And then we settled on the Passengers, and I think it was [Dan] who said it looked really good on lined paper. Because if you were to have a paper with a middle dashed linem all the letters of the Passengers would fit under the line.
Daniel: It’s called the x height and it looks really nice if it’s in all lower case letters and it kind of lines up really nicely as a logo.
Michael: Okay, during the brief period when you guys changed your name to the Revelries, where did that name come from?
Daniel: That was from a really late-night MSN conversation, I think Jon suggested the Rivalries, and then I just kind of like looked at it and thought “Revelries?” like revelry, like a party, and then I immediately thought “have a revelry”. After I showed the definition of a revelry which is a joyous gathering, it seemed like the direction we were trying to go for our music.
Michael: Okay, so as if Jon hasn’t talked enough already (Jonny laughs), do you have a sort of process you go through when you write a song?
Jonny: Ya. I think what happens is I get a lot of ideas, and the first thing I do when I have a song idea is I go through it once, and then I just chuck it, I completely scrap it. And my idea is that if a song is good it will come back to me, like when I’m walking down the street or driving, and usually the songs that come back are the ones that I work with. If it’s not memorable enough then it’s not worth writing out.
Michael: Your EP that you released, “Do you have a flag?” Of course I’m going to ask why “Do you have a flag?”
Ryan: The first time that EP name came to us was when Timmy Blank was still in the band, and we were coming out with some recordings and we were all sitting around. And at the time we were really into a comedian named Eddie Izzard. He had this little routine where he was talking about how the British are conquering all these different colonies, and he said “I claim India for Britain”, and someone said “You can’t claim India, we live here”, and then “Well, do you have a flag?” and then “Well we don’t need a flag, we live here!” and he’s like “No flag, no country!” And we thought it was good because at the time we were all really into Radiohead, even more than we are now. Radiohead named their first album Pablo Honey, wasn’t that after a comedic routine?
Jonny: The jerky boys, they did prank calls in the early nineties.
Ryan: And so Pablo Honey came from that, and so we thought “Ya, that’s a good sounding name, and it’s more like Radiohead, so it’s everything that we want!”
Daniel: I think I can add to that. You guys were going to name the Skyscraper EP, before I was in the band, and then it was going to be “I’m okay if you’re okay”, and when we were thinking of the new EP, and then I brought it back and said “Hey, why don’t you actually go with the name that you were thinking of because it sounds really cool”. I think you can make your own meaning out of it too, it’s a very broad statement, or question to ask, and it can mean a lot of things.
Michael: When I was looking on the inside of the CD it said that you, Dan, actually took the album cover picture. What inspired you to take that picture?
Daniel: I think that when Jon first told me that they were going to name that old EP “Do you have a flag?” I asked if I could do the artwork for it. I had the idea of someone making their own flag, that was the inspiration for that. And the idea just kind of stuck with me, the idea of sewing machines, sewing needles. And pretty much what ended up becoming the cover of that was what I had as an idea two years before. It was stuck so long in my head I just wanted to get that up.
Michael: Do you guys have any plans for releasing music any time soon?
Jonny: Ya, we’re hoping to start recording another EP come the fall, around October. So we’re just trying to find the songs for that EP. It sounds a lot bigger and more joyous than our music thus far. We’re really enjoying working on that album so I’m really looking forward to it.
Michael: Okay, how many of the four of you can play guitar?
Jonny: I think all of us.
Michael: Individually, what was the first song each of you learned on guitar?
(band takes some time to think back)
Ryan: That is a good question, Michael. You know, I’m really not sure. Everyone will say “Oh, I learned ‘Smoke on the Water’ first and that’s the first riff everyone remembers playing. When I first got my guitar I was in grade eight. My dad played the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff.
Jonny: Your dad plays guitar?
Ryan: He doesn’t. He picked up the guitar and played it and I thought “My dad is the best guitar player in the world!” Then he taught me it, so my dad was my first teacher. So the very first riff I learned was obviously the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff, and everyone can say that but it hold significance for me because my dad was my very first teacher. I guess the first song I learned was-
Jonny: That was a long intro…
Ryan: Ya, I know, but I guess the first song I learned was “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith because I thought that it was neat. (Jonny and Ryan hum the guitar rhythm)
Jonny: Oh um… Mine was definitely “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” by Smashing Pumpkins. When I first started playing the guitar I was obsessed with the Smashing Pumpkins, and I thought I could play it because it was in a different tuning. I was very unsuccessful but I was trying.
Daniel: I started learning guitar when I was in my big Green Day phase in grade six, and I think it might have been “Time of Your Life”. I know for so long I didn’t know how to read tabs off the internet but the first time it all made sense was like that scene in the Matrix, when Neo sees real life as the Code. It was a solo for a song off their Nimrod album, I think “Walking Alone”? And one day I started trying some things, and then I read the tab and I started hearing the solo, and then I realized that’s how it works! I guess “Time of your Life” and “Walking Alone.”
SuYen: This is a really hard question… I’m going to have to go all the way back, oh man… Because I’m not really a guitarist, but I like to play guitar, I don’t do all that crazy solo stuff, I think it was “Unintended” by Muse.
Ryan: Sorry, I wanted to redeem myself. The first song I learned was “Here Comes the Sun” but without a capo.
Jonny: Ya, well the first song I learned to play was “Classical Gas”. (awkward pause)
Ryan: Next question.